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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The meme from Historiann - Why I teach History

I cribbed this from Historiann and Edge of the American West. It also relates to Stanley Fish's column in the NYTimes about the use of the humanities.

I like reading history a lot and teaching history is one way to pay the bills while still indulging my interests. That said, historical knowledge cannot be easily monetized. Therefore it goes against the current in contemporary American life which says, "If you are so so smart, how come you aren't rich?"

It turns out I am pretty good at teaching history. Chances are I will keep getting better. That makes the teaching part almost as interesting as the history content. Teaching history is intriguing, because if you are the least bit self-reflexive, you can see how well you can hone your skills over time. Its sort of like improving your golf handicap, except that it actually benefits your students.

History, contrary to other posts in other places, can be a non-instrumental exercise of ones reason. I like it for its time tested and proven uselessness. History will not cure cancer, it will not make for a better car, and it will probably not save us from global warming. It clearly does not make for better public policy. History, when practiced conscientiously, fulfills the injunction, "first do no harm."

I like the people I work with on a daily basis in my department. The colleagues are great. They have all kinds of different views on politics, how to teach history, how to run the university (or department) and what constitutes a good desert or bottle of wine. The students are great too. I am an adviser for both our Phi Alpha Theta Chapter and our History Association and its been fun to learn about their historical interests and fascinations.

2 comments:

Ann said...

Hi Matt--

Thanks for picking up the meme. Historians have something better than money--loads of style and personality! And now that we have blogs, we're famous too.

Cheers,

Historiann.com

Matt L said...

Thanks Historiann!